Ready to discover (or re-discover) Portland? From the coast to the Gorge, from Clark County to Salem, The Ultimate Guide to Portland Family Fun will allow you to experience the awesomeness this area has to offer, all from Frugal Living NW readers! Go here for links to all posts!
A Day in Vancouver, Washington
Looking for something fun to fill your day? There are so many great things to do in Vancouver, I had to whittle this list down to our core favorites – and it was not easy!
Vancouver Farmers Market, located on the west side of Esther Short Park in Vancouver, WA – The 2017 schedule runs from March 18-Oct 29. (Two different locations run only during the summer months!)
This growing market is a great place for families to spend a day outdoors. The huge playground and park are right next to the 3-block long Farmers Market. This is a dog-friendly market. Free samples of seasonal produce and other goodies are always fun, and there is live music in the eating area along with regular scheduled events in the larger stage at Esther Short Park.
There are demonstrations for composters, arts, and crafts to enjoy. Our twin toddlers get to pick a fresh fruit or veggie to try at home, and LOVE the hush puppies at the Cajun food stall. The market is free, but you will probably want to buy some fresh foods to take home.
Vancouver Community Library, 901 C Street, Downtown Vancouver, WA (Just a couple of blocks west of I-5)
When I asked my 3-year-old son to tell me his favorite places to go, number one was “The library!” (Followed seconds later by, “The toy store!”, but the library was number one!) We LOVE the downtown library, with its third floor fully dedicated to kids. There are touchy-feely sculptures and tall tent-shaped features to explore, and plenty of knobs, steering wheels, and musical machines to keep your littler kids busy for the morning. Oh, and did I mention they also have books?
Older kids have special areas to explore, and group activities are planned for all ages. This library was rated #2 in the nation for kids in 2012 by Livability.com, and a visit to the third floor instantly shows why we are so lucky to have this great place nearby.
Shorty’s Garden Center, 10006 Southeast Mill Plain Boulevard, Vancouver, WA 98664.
Oh, wow, this is a GREAT place to spend an hour or more! Shorty’s on Mill Plain has a huge selection of plants of all sizes and for all budgets, and their new layout added wonderful, wide paths through the already family friendly nursery. It can be tricky to keep track of everyone weaving in and out of the display gardens, but chances are you’ll come home with a lot of cute photos and memories. There are sculptures galore, kids’ events, and we always bring home at least one new plant for the garden. The staff is very helpful.
Note – if you have young children, avoid the gift shop. There are extremely beautiful, but extremely fragile gifts for the gardener in your life – make a point to come back and explore the gift shop another day when the kids are in school.
This huge park has it all – covered and uncovered picnic areas, walking trails, sports fields, playground, an absolutely ginormous skateboard/BMX course, and our favorite, the 8-acre off leash Dakota Memorial Dog Park. The dog park has two double-gated entrances, a wide path that encircles an open area great for throwing a ball or disc for your dog, and an amazing assortment of canine companions. I always ask the kids to guess if they’ll see more big or small dogs, and then we see who’s right that day.
There are giant logs on one side of the park, and the kids and dogs love to climb them. This is a GREAT way to burn off a lot of energy for the whole family. The park is free, but is run with donations through DOGPAW.
Kazoodles – 13503 SE Mill Plain Blvd. #B-3, Vancouver.
Tucked into a strip mall that includes Craft Warehouse and Chuck’s Produce, this store is way bigger on the inside than it appears. “Kid-powered toys” is their mantra, and they stay true to that ideal.
Although many things here are spendy, I think that spending money on quality, imagination-growing, and often locally-made products is a frugal choice. Our kids’ naptimes have been made easier with music from the Kazoodles CD collection, many road trips have been more fun with magnet board games, and the wooden play food has withstood the test of many toddler picnics. There are plenty of choices under $5 or $10, but if you are looking for that perfect birthday gift or treasure, they probably have that, too.
Many toys are available to try at display tables, and the super staff will always have great ideas for your kids.
My top reason for recommending Kazoodles? Their other motto: “See it here, Buy it here, Keeps us here” reminds us that supporting the community provides a brighter future for all of us.
Burnt Bridge Creek Trail is an eight mile paved trail that crosses Vancouver from east to west. If you live in Vancouver, chances are you reside within a couple miles of this winding path. Wide enough for strollers, bikes, walkers, wheelchairs, and joggers, this passes through the heart of Vancouver and can be followed in part or in its entirety depending on the time you have. Take your binoculars and watch wildlife at the wetlands off of Burton, or at Vancouver Lake. The trail is long enough for a fun family bike ride, with well-signed crosswalks at the neighborhood streets.
A map of the trail can be found at the Parks & Rec website.
Other great places we’ve “discovered” in Vancouver include:
Any school playground, when school is not in session. We also go to different neighborhood parks with a picnic, and these along with the school playgrounds make a nice variety for the kids and help me learn more about our different neighborhoods.
Cascade Park Library story & group activity times
Clark County Parks & Rec park list – my resource to find a park near where we will be doing errands.
Firstenburg Center open gym time, great kids’ pool, and other fun activities
Lacamas Lake is on the Camas side of town, and it is fun to walk around the lake.
I love exploring Vancouver with my family. Take a new path to a routine place, and find your community along the way. Share your favorite places, if you want to comment!
Susan is a veterinary technician and hospital manager and writes a pet care blog for the clinic website. She lives with her family in Vancouver, and they are always looking for fun day trips.
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